While systematically played down by western scholars, we now know that many of those Greek minds we consider leaders in the field of western thought actually traveled across the Mediterranean to Kemet. Here they enrolled at the universities for a period of time, learning and expanding their knowledge. That is not to say that the Greeks didn’t already possess a high understanding of their subject matter, but upon returning from their time in Kemet we have written records of the wonder felt by contemporaries and peers in Greek society at their ‘new proofs and workings’. Pythagoras is said to have studied the longest, with 25 years of Kemetic learning behind him before he returned to Greece for good, but this obviously still falls short of the 40 years for completion.
Initially, it is said that Greeks were banned from studying at Kemet’s universities. The historian George G.M. James states that for thousands of years, despite seeing the land across the Mediterranean as “the cradle of wisdom and knowledge”, the Greeks were prohibited from entering the universities at all. Eventually laws were relaxed by the ruling priesthood and a handful of foreign students were permitted to study within the ancient halls of learning. One of the first of these pilgrims of education is said to be Thales, long considered to be “the first Greek philosopher”.
James is one of a few historians who maintained the importance of Black Africa in the legacy of knowledge early in the twentieth century, although unfortunately he did not see these thoughts expanded on as they are today as he died of cancer in 1956 under what some believe to be suspicious circumstances given the subject of his work. Another prominent historian on the subject is Theophile Obenga, who states that after Thales’ return from Kemet he urged Pythagoras to sail to Kemet “in order to get more knowledge from Egyptian priests at Memphis and Thebes than could be attained anywhere else”. Pythagoras went on to become “the father of mathematics”, and this pattern is seen again with Plato, Aristotle, Hippocrates and Isokrates; each a “father” of a discipline from governance to medicine.
If the pattern is true, of Greek thinkers crossing the Mediterranean in order to learn new ways of learning, then imagine the knowledge held by priests that have completed all 40 years of learning and have had time to muse over their findings. If one man has come back from these universities with a fraction of the knowledge available to him and been lauded as the catalyst for a radical progression in human understanding, imagine the knowledge that has been lost in that north-eastern corner of Africa. It was after all, the location of the great Library of Alexandria before it’s gradual decline, long held as the pinnacle of humans collective knowledge.
The question then remains why, if the Greeks held Kemetic learning to be of the highest calibre, did they choose to whitewash it? To understand this you would have to delve into thousands of years of white-european bias against black Africans but beyond the obvious racial whitewashing and subjugation of a people, there is also another explanation. I do not overlook the horrific racially biased aspect of this subsequent hiding of a whole continents intelligence and importance, but I feel it is covered elsewhere to a large enough degree, here I wish to expand on a less talked about angle. That is that later Europeans saw African learning as too all-encapsulating. As a holistic study, it incorporated all fields of learning, which while giving a wider understanding, also meant tying in most empirical knowledge such as mathematics and astrology with less scientific endeavors such as philosophy, society and religion. This rounded approach to Europeans seemed “unrational” and so the white western approach to the gained knowledge from Africa was to take out the emotional and social understanding, therefore reducing this knowledge to more pure subjects. While this may seem like a better way to garner understanding, it paves the way for less moral questions in the search for new knowledge, as well as hindering the application of that knowledge in the greater field of society. The rounded approach to learning practiced in African universities around that time may have contributed to the vast length of some of these early civilizations, some spanning thousands of years, whereas may western civilizations have arguably been more greedy in their search for knowledge and power, burning themselves out much quicker in the process.
Maybe if we were given the opportunity to learn a range of detailed but varied subject matter instead of the compartmentalized education system we have today, we too could answer some of the great questions that we think of as forever unknown. But who’s to say they have always been unknown? Maybe the ancient Africans of Kemet already had that knowledge, but in the quest for rationality and evidence western thinkers ruled out some great truths. For this reason, who’s to say that the Age of Knowledge hasn’t already passed us by? And who’s to say that knowledge as we know it, and what we now don’t know, is actually far older than we think?